Russia's Wagner Chief Accuses Defense Ministry of Deadly Strikes, Vows Retaliation Amid Rising Tensions

Russia's Wagner Chief Accuses Defense Ministry of Deadly Strikes, Vows Retaliation Amid Rising Tensions

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the private military company (PMC) Wagner, has pledged to retaliate following accusations that Russia's military leadership carried out strikes that resulted in a "huge amount" of casualties among his forces. The allegations have led Russia's domestic intelligence service to open a criminal case against him.

Prigozhin lambasted the traditional Russian military hierarchy in a series of Telegram posts, alleging they were "trying to deprive us of the opportunity to defend our homes and instead hunt down Wagner PMC." He stated that strikes had been launched on Wagner's camps, causing significant loss of life. "We will make a decision about how to respond to these atrocities. The next step is ours,” he declared.

The Russian Ministry of Defense has denied these claims, dismissing them as an "informational provocation."

Prigozhin, who has previously criticized Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and armed forces chief Valery Gerasimov for their alleged negligence towards his forces, promised a harsh response. "We will deal with those who destroy Russian soldiers and return to the front, justice for the troops will be restored, and then justice for all of Russia,” he added.

Amid the escalating tension, Prigozhin clarified in a subsequent Telegram post that his public denunciation was a quest for justice, not a coup. "This is not a military coup, this is a march of justice. Our actions do not interfere with the troops in any way," he asserted.

The discord between Prigozhin and Russia's military leadership was met with stern reaction on Friday as Russian state media TASS reported that Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) had "initiated a criminal case on the fact of calling for an armed rebellion."

TASS also stated that the National Anti-Terrorism Committee declared Prigozhin’s allegations as baseless. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov confirmed that President Vladimir Putin is aware of the unfolding crisis and "all necessary measures are being taken."

The internal conflict adds another layer of complexity to the situation in Ukraine, where Wagner PMC has been playing a significant role. Prigozhin, who has frequently challenged Russia's official reasons for the Ukrainian invasion, has claimed that the Russian Ministry of Defense has misled Putin about the realities on the Ukrainian battlefield.

In a controversial interview, he stated that the so-called “special operation” in Ukraine was launched for reasons entirely different from those presented by the Russian Ministry of Defense. Prigozhin also accused Shoigu of providing misleading updates on the status of the battlefield, claiming that Russian forces were on the defensive in southern Ukraine due to poor planning.

The tensions between Wagner PMC and the Russian Defense Ministry indicate a severe fragmentation within Russia's military ranks, raising further questions about the country's ability to maintain a unified front.